Monday, June 14, 2010

Sabriel by Garth Nix

"it was little more than three miles from the wall into the old kingdom, but that was enough."

Sabriel By Garth Nix
304 pages (Hardcover)
Published: October 30, 1996
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book One of Four
Goodreads Rating: 4.19/5
Amazon Rating: 4.7/5
Shelfari Rating: 4.1/5

For many years Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who won't stay dead. But now her father, the Charter-Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world.

Though her journey begins alone, she soon finds companions: Mogget, whose seemingly harmless feline form hides a powerful --- and perhaps malevolent --- spirit, and Touchstone, a Charter-Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories.

With threats on all sides and only each other to trust, the three of them must travel deep into the Old Kingdom, toward a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death --- and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own hidden destiny.

A tale of dark secrets, deep love, and dangerous magic! -from

I am actually surprised (and more than a little angry) that I had never picked up Sabriel before. More surprisingly, I had never even heard of Sabriel before this year. Yeah, I know. That revelation is almost a crime against readamanity. Sabriel is a fantasy about a strong teenage girl who has magical powers. Everything about this book sounds right up my alley. So why wasn't I aware of this book? I have sucky friends who have never read anything published before Twilight.

Sabriel has been raised in a small land called Ancelstierre, which is eerily similar to England by the way, far from the Wall and the menancing beings of the Old Kingdom. For the most part, she has been oblivious of the doings and history of that part of her world. Unfortunately, this dangerous countryside holds the house of her father, who must remain there to carry out his work. Her father is Abhorsen, the famed necromancer who binds the dead back to the land of the dead. When her father does not show up for his moonly meeting with Sabriel, she fears he has gone missing. She must take her powers and travel into the Old Kingdom, a place she is knows little about, to find her father. To help her with her journey, a cat and perhaps malicious spirit named Mogget and a man named Touchstone join her.

When I was updating my layout, I started going through authors' websites to add to my blogroll. One of these authors was the lovely Catherine Gilbert Murdock, who wrote what may be my favorite read of the year and possibly my whole life. She has a list of her favorite books, which I suggest you meander on over and look at, and Sabriel just happened to be on the list. Catherine had an amazing quote about the series that struck me as so correct that I had to share it here:
Years after reading Sabriel, I remain awed by his ability to drop readers in the middle of this foreign world – plop! – and expect us to soldier along until things explain themselves.

I almost jumped up and down, squeeing, "OMG! She gets me, she gets me! Catherine & I are BFFS because we shared a brainwave!" -gigglesnort- This is exactly how I felt in the beginning of the story. Garth Nix makes understanding his world nigh impossible without just girding your loins and shouldering through the book. I had no idea what the frack Free Magic was, or Charter Magic was, or what the different types of death creatures were, or what a Charter Stone was, or or or. You see I could go on for days. But I am perfectly fine with being confused with a world, and I could feel it in my bones that Sabriel would be a winner if I kept with it for a little while longer. Boy, was I right. I appreciated the fact that Sabriel knew next to nothing about the Old Kingdom. Her ignorance was part of the reason of the little explanation given. The author was waiting to reveal all of the Big.Secrets until Sabriel was ready. The two different magic concepts were explained, quite literally, on the run as Sabriel used one type of magic against the evil forces, who were using the other type, while she tried to reach her destination.

One interesting aspect of the story hit me on the head while I was reading reviews on Goodreads, after I had finished the book. Sabriel has ZOMBIES. Like big, scary, people-eating, back from the dead ZOMBIES! I hadn't put together that some people might see the creatures that came back from the realm of dead as zombies. I didn't see the relation at all while I was obliviously reading. For hardcore zombies fanatics out there, I wouldn't necessarily be putting Sabriel automatically on my to be read list because the of the zombies. Maybe I didn't think of zombies right away because I don't think of zombies as intelligent. They have a desire to feed, and that's all they have. They don't recognize power or hierachies, while the creatures in Sabriel are intelligent, without a doubt. They can think and reason. They know why they have to feed. They know they must follow creatures more powerful than themselves. A brain does not a zombie have. And they devour souls, not body parts. But potatoes, patatoes.

The character of Sabriel is ahmazing. She is strong and capable of handling herself, while still taking care of those around her or that may have gotten between her and her enemies. She is never TSTL, which I always appreciate in any character. She is an independent woman and worthy of admiring. I would have liked to see more of the women in her world, for comparison. Its hard to tell if the world in which Sabriel inhabits accepts more 'modern' women and if Sabriel's attitude would be commonplace in the Old Kingdom or Ancelstierre. Somehow I guess not, but that is just my experience with most fantasies set in monarchies such as the Old Kingdom. However, my favorite character, without a doubt, was Mogget. An evil spirit wrapped up in a snarky cat. Can I spell amazing and wonderful any more ways? I loved how Garth Nix portayed him as mysterious and shady. The wool was pulled over my eyes completely. I was so willing to believe Mogget was not malacious. Even when he attacks Sabriel, I was shaking my head, saying to myself, "There must be some better explanation of this attack." Yeah, I am an idiot. Even then, it's wonderful how Sabriel must lean on Mogget after he has tried to get rid of her forever.

The only character who I felt was a little lacking, was Touchstone. He didn't seem real enough for me, and therefore the romance wasn't my favorite. It's easy to call, seeing as how there is basically only one boy and one girl throughout the entire novel. And the first time Sabriel sees him, Touchstone is naked. That always signifies smexy time and helps things along.

Rating: 9 out of 10. Sabriel is a fantastic novel, and I can't sing its praises enough. I wish everyone would pick it up, especially lovers of stong heroines and fantasy. I'll probably being ordering my copy of Lirael soon and adding the Abhorsen books to my library.

Source for copy: Borrowed.


  1. Oh yeah this is a good series. What surprised me is that I loved LIRAEL, the second book, perhaps even more than SABRIEL. Reason? It has the coolest library in it EVER. I love that library.

    Very pretty blog by the way. :)

  2. Will you be reading the rest of the series? I have the trilogy but have yet to crack it open. :-(

  3. @ Janicu: Oh my, you are getting me so excited for Lirael! I love a good library. Thank you.

    @ April: Definately reading the rest of the series. I have Lirael ordered already.



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